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Arun Khore

A file pic of Mahatma Gandhi from the Hindu archives

October 2 is Gandhiji’s birth anniversary. This day is celebrated as ‘Ahimsa Din’ or day of non-violence across the world for the past eight years. Gandhiji’s birth and death anniversaries are days when his philosophy is remembered through various ways by individuals and institutions across nations

In Germany, an essay competition was held for high school children on the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary. The essay that was selected as the best was written by Susanne Schweitzer, whose friend, Daniel, was murdered six months ago. As described by her, he was “brutally stabbed 35 times by two boys of his age simply for the fun of it.” After the culprits were caught her first thought was simple, pure hatred.

Then her sister gave her Mahatma Gandhi's book “Worte des Friedens” (Words of Peace). A few sentences of his made her think: “I hold myself to be incapable of hating any being on earth. By a long course of prayerful discipline, I have ceased for over forty years to hate anybody. I know this is a big claim. Nevertheless, I make it in all humility. To see the universal and all-pervading spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself,” Gandhiji had said.

Susanne wrote in her essay that from his life one can learn that it is indeed possible to love even one’s worst enemy. Even today his autobiography gives us an insight into the situation we are in and the relevance of the book becomes even more meaningful.

My generation of post-independence era was not fortunate to see Gandhiji. We saw his photos and came to know about him .The slogan “untouchability is a sin against humanity,” was printed on the back of all post cards by the Post and Telegraph Department in 1969, which was the birth centenary year of Gandhiji. We did not understand this message in those days. In the same year biographies written by Marathi litterateurs P.L.Deshpande and Ba.Bha.Borkar on Gandhiji were also published.  Poet Vasant Bapat’s lines "uchalales tu mith muthbhar, samrajyacha khachala paya" (you picked a little salt and shook the foundations of the Empire) or the famous song in Hindi “Sabarmati ke sant tune kar diya kamal” were popular and heard. But the unfortunate part was that he did not exist in our syllabus.

Gandhiji writes about how he got into bad company at school and how he cheated his father, but then he gave a written confession of the wrongs he had done. The young Mohan saw tears in his father’s eyes on reading the note and he describes his feelings in the autobiography. This is the only chapter in this great man's life that we read in our syllabus. This and a few other inconsequential references are the only ones found in our school and college syllabus.

Maharashtra, where he found many followers, boasts of being showered with the benevolence of Gandhiji. We have forgotten him. Keeping him out of the curriculum, we as teachers or parents have failed to teach values like tolerance, nonviolence or equality of religion to our students and children. The consequences are very obvious in today’s society.

Gandhiji himself had tried to give complete justice to his duty as a father while rearing his four children. Yet his eldest son Harilal drifted away from him forever. Gandhiji expressed the pain he felt in his letters. He, however, was more careful with his three younger sons, Manilal, Ramdas and Devdas, who carried his flame forward.

There is an incident where the impoverished Harilal fails to account for some cotton reels he has taken. His father promptly advises the concerned trader to lodge a police complaint. The surprised trader stares at him. Gandhiji then tells him something which we all ought to take into account seriously. These famous words appeared in the film 'Gandhi - My Father', by Anil Kapoor and Firoz Abbas Khan, “Hum apne bachchon ke aparadh ka bachao kab tak karenge?”

It is imperative to take this opportunity to put forth his teachings today. May be it will help the youth today!  Kidnappings, rape and murder are the order of the day. Juvenile delinquency is on the rise – 15/16 year olds are committing heinous crimes like murder and rape under the influence of someone or something like the lure of money or simple adventure. It is important to ponder seriously on why this increase in violence and greed is happening all around us. Media, teachers and parents must give serious thought to this.

Gandhiji's teachings are a part of our legacy! We must take it upon ourselves to adhere to and teach our children to follow principles like simplicity, honesty, tolerance and equality, to think beyond the barriers of dishonesty, casteism or the boundaries of religion, and practice humanity instead.

Believing in goodness and that good things can happen will help this new generation to develop a positive attitude. To deny this rich legacy would be suicidal!

Arun Khore is a senior journalist and author from Pune, who has held senior editorial positions at leading Marathi dailies like Sakal, Lokmat, Prabhat and Pudhari. He has dedicated himself to research and writing on Mahatma Gandhi for the past two decades

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